Indignation, defensive attribution, and implicit theories of moral character
AuthorMiller, Claude Harold
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractIndignation is a discrete social emotion specifying disapproval of a blameworthy action explicitly perceived as violating the objective order, and implicitly perceived as injurious to the self-concept. Two experiments were conducted to examine the effects of defensive attributions and implicit theories of moral character on indignation. Both studies attempted to influence the defensive attribution process by manipulating apparent similarity between participants and an imagined offender while exploring the relationship between people's implicit theories about moral character (ITM) and measures indicative of indignation. Two implicit attribution theory perspectives were examined: Entity theorists believe that personal moral attributes are fixed and unchanging, while incremental theorists believe that personal moral attributes are malleable. Entity theorists, who tend to base their attributions on internal characterological dispositional information, were hypothesized to show greater indignation after offensive episodes than incremental theorists, who prefer to use more external situation-relevant information in forming their attributions. Subjects in the similar conditions were expected to form more defensive attributions than those in the dissimilar conditions, thus a second hypothesis predicted that those in the similar conditions would show greater indignation after offensive episodes than those in the dissimilar conditions. Study 1 used a computer program to manipulate certain aspects of similarity while designating subjects as either entity or incremental theorists based on their responses to three ITM scale measures. It revealed a positive correlation between the presence of an entity theory and the experience of indignation. Study 2, using a cognitive response set induction to operationalize similarity while experimentally manipulating ITM, provides evidence for a causal relationship between ITM and indignation. As predicted, entity theorists in both studies responded with significantly higher levels of indignation after offensive episodes than did incremental theorists. Only modest support was found for an hypothesized relationship involving defensive attribution and indignation.
Degree ProgramGraduate College